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Autism Queensland Research
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Participate in a research project

High quality research is essential to enable better understanding of autism and to develop improved supports in the future.

Why should you get involved?

Researchers are always looking for participants for their projects – the more participants, the greater the chances of meaningful results that reflect the wide range of issues that people on the autism spectrum and their families face. So get involved where you can – it will help improve their knowledge and it may benefit you!

Disclaimer: Autism Queensland aims to support research that promises to inform future directions of services for individuals on the spectrum and their families. Although we screen each project before advertising, we do not necessarily endorse the views, activities or organisations of researchers.


Projects seeking participants

Contact details of all researchers are provided for each of our projects. If you are interested in participating in a study please click on those of the following you believe will be of interest. This list is updated regularly and includes research being undertaken externally and by Autism Queensland.

Anxiety in children on the autism spectrum

Participants Required:

Parents! Can you help us understand anxiety in children (5-15 years) on the autism spectrum by answering an online questionnaire?

Description of Project:

Many of the questionnaires used to measure anxiety were originally designed for neurotypical children. We are testing a common anxiety questionnaire, to check whether it works just as well to measure anxiety in children on the autism spectrum.

We are asking parents of children with an autism diagnosis (aged 5-15 years) to complete an online questionnaire about anxiety in their child. We are interested in responses about all children on the autism spectrum, NO MATTER THEIR ANXIETY LEVEL. The questionnaire is completely anonymous and will take about 45minutes to complete. For convenience, you may stop and start the questionnaire many times as you like.

(This study has been approved by Griffith Human Research Ethics Committee ref 2021/449).

Benefits to Participants:

It is important that anxiety questionnaires test what we think they’re testing. This research will help doctors and other researchers to understand which questionnaires are suitable to use with children on the autism spectrum, which improves their chance of diagnosing anxiety if it’s there.

Survey link

Contact Details:

Dawn Adams
E. dawn.adams@griffith.edu.au

 

Combined Gut-brain Treatment for Children with Autism

Participants Required:

Children with autism and gut issues, aged 5-10 years.

Description of Project:

Background: Children with autism are four (4) times more likely to suffer with gut issues (tummy and bowel problems) than children without autism.  Research has linked both gut issues and autism to changes within the two-way communication network called the gut-brain axis.  Gut issues are also linked to increased severity of autistic behaviours and independently to anxiety/depression.

Aim:  To reduce gut issues in children with autism, with possible improvements in autism severity and anxiety scores.

Study Design:  This study is a randomised clinical trial.  If your child is enrolled, they will be randomly allocated to one of two 12-week treatment intervention groups:

1) synbiotic (prebiotic + probiotic supplement) or 2) synbiotic + home-based therapy program.

You and your child will be required to complete questionnaires and stool samples at the start and end of the 12-week period.  There will also be a follow-up at week 24 to assess if any improvements have been maintained.

Benefits to Participants:

We cannot promise your child will receive a benefit from participating in this study. The main potential benefit from this study is reduced tummy/bowel symptoms and/or improved stool consistency.  Other possible benefits include improved balance of “good” and “bad” gut bacteria, reduced anxiety/stress levels and reduced autism severity scores.

Contact Details:

E. leanne.mitchell@uq.edu.au
P. 0414 689 850

This research is part of the Doctoral degree of Mrs Leanne Mitchell (Principal Investigator) and is sponsored by the University of Queensland.

Does repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), compared to sham rTMS, improve social communication in adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Participants Required:

People between 14 and 40 years of age with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder may be eligible to join this study.
Participants with a history of seizures, an implanted medical device, or moderate to severe intellectual disability cannot participate in this study.

Description of Project:

Background: Many individuals with ASD experience difficulty with social functioning; for example, in understanding what other people are thinking or feeling. This may cause significant distress and lead to difficulties and anxiety in social situations. There are very few intervention options for improving abilities related to social functioning in ASD.

Aim: The aim of this project is to determine whether rTMS can be used to improve social function. rTMS is a safe and non-invasive means of stimulating nerve cells in a particular part of the brain via the administration of brief magnetic pulses. rTMS has been developed as a intervention for major depressive disorder, and we have previously found that rTMS can benefit social aspects of ASD.

Methodology: In this study we will stimulate a region of the brain that is involved in social understanding and social communication. This region is called the right temporoparietal junction, or rTPJ.

Some participants will receive the real form of rTMS, while others will receive a sham or placebo form. The sham or placebo form mimics the feeling of rTMS, but no brain stimulation is delivered. You will not know which one you receive until the end of your involvement in the study. Those who received the sham or placebo form will be given the opportunity to undergo the real rTMS intervention at the end of their involvement in the study.

Participants will come in for multiple sessions across an 8-month period. The sessions will involve MRI brain scans, the TMS sessions, genetic analysis, cognitive testing, and clinical assessments.

150 people (aged 14-40 years) will take part in this study, which is being conducted throughout Australia. There are sites in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. Participants will be recruited from around Australia, but primarily the greater metropolitan regions within these five cities. In Brisbane we are looking for 30 participants.

rTMS is an experimental intervention. This means that it is not an approved intervention for ASD in Australia or elsewhere.

Benefits to Participants:

We cannot guarantee or promise that you will receive any benefits from this research; however, possible benefits include an improvement in social understanding and functioning, including an increased ability to accurately infer what other people are thinking or feeling.

Survey link

Contact Details:

Dr Suzanne Harte
The University of Queensland
E. UQ_abic@uq.edu.au
P. 07 3069 7604

https://tmsautism.com/

ENACT: Environmental Enrichment for infants: parenting with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Participants Required:

We are looking to recruit pregnant women who have an older child diagnosed with ASD or either parent is diagnosed with ASD.  This is so that the intervention can commence antenatally or very early in the neonatal period.

For participants to be included in this study they must meet the following inclusion criteria:

(1) the infant’s mother must agree to the assessment requirements of the study;

(2) the infant must have one or more biological siblings diagnosed with ASD, or a biological parent (mother or father) diagnosed with ASD; and

(3) As ENACT uses integrated web-based delivery, parents are required to have reliable internet access at home (e.g. ADSL) and must be committed to maintaining internet access for the duration of the study.

The study will exclude potential participants in the case of:

(1) the parents having insufficient English to complete the assessment requirements; or

(2) families who identify at recruitment that they are unwilling to return for the outcome assessments at 6 months and 12 months of age.

(3) infants with a known chromosomal or neurological condition prior to study enrolment

Project Description:

Background: Infant siblings of older children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are at an increased risk of a diagnosis of ASD. From 6-12 months of age there are prodromal symptoms of ASD in the domains of motor skills, motor planning, visual attention, visual perception and affect regulation. This can impact on parent-infant interaction and language, social and cognitive development. In addition, mothers of infants at risk of ASD are at risk of poorer mental health when compared to the general population due to the complexity of managing ASD. Currently, there are no trials that have been conducted with infants at risk of ASD younger than six months of age.

Aims: The aim of this research is to test the efficacy of an innovative early intervention, ENACT, for families of infants at risk of ASD through a randomised controlled trial with ENACT compared to care as usual, and testing the effect of the intervention in improving the parent-child relationship and infant developmental outcomes.

Benefits to Participants:

There are currently no evidence-based interventions available to parent of infants younger than 6 months of age who are at risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Families who are randomised to the intervention group will get early access to a novel intervention program that aims to enrich the life of their family. Parents will also play a role in refining the content of the program. All families will get comprehensive developmental assessments at the conclusion of the study, when their baby is 12 months old.  Families will receive a copy of this report.

Access project

For more information:

Miss Kavindri Kulasinghe or Dr Andrea McGlade

(07) 3069 7547 or enact.qcprrc@uq.edu.au

Experiences of mental healthcare for autistic and non-autistic Australian adults

Participants Required:

You are eligible to participate if you:

  • Are autistic (self-identifying or diagnosed) or non-autistic
  • Aged 18+ and live in Australia
  • You have experienced mental health difficulties at any time in your life (whether or not you have seen a mental health practitioner)
  • You have an internet connected device and sufficient written English language skills to complete an online survey.
Project Description:

Research from other countries shows that autistic people in general have poorer mental health than non-autistic people, face greater barriers to getting mental healthcare and are often not satisfied with the mental healthcare they receive. We are doing this survey to get the information needed to try to improve mental healthcare for autistic people in Australia.

To participate in this study, you will complete an anonymous, online survey that takes about 45 minutes (you can take breaks).

The survey asks about:

  • your mental health needs
  • barriers you have experienced to getting good mental healthcare
  • details of any mental healthcare providers you have seen
  • your experience of any mental healthcare you received
  • your recommendations for improving mental healthcare in Australia.
Benefits to Participants:
  • You will be contributing to our understanding of the mental healthcare needs of autistic Australian adults.
  • You can choose to receive a plain English written summary of the results of the study.
  • If you finish the survey you can go into the prize draw to win one of several $50 shopping vouchers

Survey link

For more information please contact:

Robyn Ball
e. robynchristine.ball@latrobe.edu.au

Home Literacy Practices of Australian School-Aged Children with or without Autism

Participants Required:

We are looking for parents/caregivers of Australian school-aged children (Foundation Year to Grade 6) who have or have not been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. You will be asked to complete an online survey about your child’s literacy and reading-related activities at home. Your participation will also include completion of the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), which is not diagnostic. The survey will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

Project Description:

The study (GU Ref No: 2021/126) is part of a larger program of research that aims to improve literacy outcomes for students on the autism spectrum through (a) understanding the diversity of reading strengths and needs, (b) helping teachers and therapists to identify students at risk of reading difficulties, and (c) identifying factors that predict literacy outcomes. This study aims to extend the existing literature by understanding the opportunities available for children to engage in reading and related activities at home and in the community, and to investigate whether this changes across development / year of schooling. This research study also forms a component of the Master of Clinical Psychology student’s academic program.

Benefits to Participants:

While we do not expect any direct benefits to you for participating in this research, we hope our research will provide insight into literacy-related experiences of children with and without autism to inform future interventions.

Access survey

For more information please contact:

Student Researcher: Fanoula Thomolaris

e. fanoula.thomolaris@griffithuni.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Jessica Paynter

e. j.paynter@griffith.edu.au

Interventions for autism: parental/personal experiences and views

Participants Required:

Two distinctive groups of participants are required:

1) parents/guardians of children (<25) with diagnoses of ASD; and
2) adults (>18) with autism diagnoses.

Brief Description of Project:

The primary research objective for the present study is to ascertain parental/ guardian and/or personal (for adults over 18 years) views of certain interventions for ASD, based on their individual experiences. We also aim to identify preferred intervention approaches that may inform research decisions.

Benefits to Participants:

Given the likely efforts involved when navigating difficulties associated with autism, participants are likely to be intrinsically motivated to share their unique experience and views as parents/guardians/individuals on the autism spectrum; in addition, they may learn of intervention approaches that they wish to investigate. The target group of this exploratory survey are rarely asked for their individual opinions. For this reason, participants may feel both respected and appreciated for their contributions.

Access the survey

For more information please contact:

Ms Nina Parrella – Co-Investigator

e. parrellan@deakin.edu.au

The Early Response Tool - An evaluation of reliability, validity and usability

Participants Required:

We are seeking to recruit parents or carers of children and adolescents with a disability (including autism spectrum disorder), who are up to 18 years of age.

Project Description:

The aim of this project is to evaluate the Early Response Tool (ERT) to see if it’s a reliable, valid and usable assessment tool. The aim of the ERT is to gather a six-month snapshot of a family’s strengths and challenges. The ERT lists 47 day-to-day issues parents or carers commonly encounter when providing care to a child or adolescent with a disability, and parents/carers are asked to rate how often they encounter the issue in their day-to-day life. If you agree to participate in this project, you will be asked to complete a 10 to 20 minute online survey that includes the ERT and additional questions related to parent and family wellbeing and disability service use. If you would prefer to complete the survey on paper, a paper copy can be requested by contacting the research team

Benefits to Participants:

Those who complete the survey in full can enter a raffle to win one of four $50 Coles Myer Gift Cards. Additionally, the findings from this project will be used to inform new and improved disability service delivery practices to help identify and better support parents, carers and families who may finding the caregiving role challenging or difficult.

If you would like to participate please follow the link below and enter the password parent when prompted.

Access survey

For more information please contact:

Maria Vassos

e. m.vassos@uq.edu.au

m. 0413 769 142

What Impacts the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Autistic Adults?

Participants Required:

You can take part if you:
1. Are aged 18+ years
2. Have a diagnosis of autism OR self-identify as autistic
3. Do not have an intellectual disability
4. Are proficient in English
5. Have access to the internet

Project Description:

This study will investigate risk and protective factors that may impact the mental health and wellbeing of autistic adults, including anxiety, depression and autistic burnout.

You will be asked to complete an anonymous online survey that will take approximately 45 minutes of your time, but you can take breaks if needed.

Benefits to Participants:

We hope that learning more about predictors of mental health and wellbeing will help improve supports for autistic adults to enhance their quality of life.

After completing the survey, you can enter the draw to win 1 of 5 $50 Coles gift vouchers.

Access survey

For more information please contact:

Jane Mantzalas – PhD candidate

e. j.mantzalas@latrobe.edu.au

Professor Amanda Richdale – Chief Investigator

e. a.richdale@latrobe.edu.au

Researchers

If you would like to have your project listed on our site, please click here.

For more information please contact the Research Team